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A Riddle of Roses
Caryl Cude Mullins
Second Story Press, 222 pages

A Riddle of Roses
Caryl Cude Mullins
Caryl Cude Mullins grew up in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. She currently lives in Montreal where she works as a teacher, a writer and an actor. A Riddle of Roses is her first book.

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Publisher's page for Riddle of Roses

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Georges T. Dodds

A Riddle of Roses is fantasy tale for young teenagers, steeped in Celtic mythology. As a first novel, it reads remarkably well for its target audience, with a nice mix of fantasy, interesting and unusual characters, and an avoidance of didacticism and moral preaching. It also has the nowadays seemingly ubiquitous headstrong young woman who yearns to take on an untraditional role for women in her society, against the wishes or the wisdom of her elders.

This particular headstrong young lady is Meryl, who just can't abide the probationary restrictions imposed upon her by the mabinogs' guild (i.e. bards' guild) after her surreptitious reading of an ancient tome containing the songs and adventures of Taliesin, a text normally restricted to fully trained and registered mabinogs. Worse yet, they won't accredit her without the completion of a full course of study. The legend of Taliesin, he too a non-conformist, points to a quicker and much more exciting way of becoming a mabinog: going to Fairyland and drinking from Ceridwen's cauldron. Armed with Taliesin's own harp, Meryl hits the road buoyant and full of self confidence, but soon learns from experience that she still has much to learn.

Along the way Meryl meets a draoi, a pompous and curmudgeonly bramble bush-like forest oracle. Together they enter the Fairy Way, a short-cut to Avalon where the cauldron resides, but Meryl's iron brooch excites the wrath of the Fairy King, who packs them off to find the Fairy Queen to receive judgement at her hands. Along with a flighty fairy escort, Leaflighter, and a pair of dimwitted human scarecrows, Meryl goes on a voyage of self-discovery, learning the true role and responsibilities of the mabinog and unravelling the mystery of how and where Taliesin obtained his ever-flowering rose-bush.

Essentially free of violence or truly evil characters, A Riddle of Roses is a delightful story for younger readers which gently shows that there are no true short-cuts or free rides in life, without seeming to be a lesson inculcated by an authority figure. The writing and plotting are simple, straightforward, and clear, leaving the Celtic mythology and adventure to carry the reader along

Copyright © 2001 Georges T. Dodds

Georges Dodds is a research scientist in vegetable crop physiology, who for close to 25 years has read and collected close to 2000 titles of predominantly pre-1950 science-fiction and fantasy, both in English and French. He writes columns on early imaginative literature for WARP, the newsletter/fanzine of the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association and maintains a site reflecting his tastes in imaginative literature.

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